The Los Angeles Clippers tried an interesting strategy to start the game. Baron Davis posted up Rajon Rondo multiple times in hopes of putting him on the bench with early foul trouble. It didn’t work, but more on that in a minute.
The big news is that Kevin Garnett is back and so are the missing 48 minutes of Celtic defense. They held the Clips to 89 points and .388 shooting on the night. And that is after holding Portland to .382 shooting in KG’s first game back.
This is the first time this season they have held their opponents under 40% shooting for two straight games. That is the difference having a healthy Kevin Garnett makes.
Except for three straight three point desperation bombs in the last 31 seconds of the game that kept the Clippers hopes alive, the Clips would have barely scored 80 points in the game. That would have been 16 below their average.
Boston repaid the Clippers for Baron Davis’ buzzer beating, step back jumper that stole a win away the last time these two teams met. Buzzer beater not needed this time.
The Celtics gained a lead they stretched to 8 points in the third quarter and held on the rest of the way.
Paul Pierce led all scorers with 22 points, on 5 of 10 shooting and a perfect 11 for 11 from the three throw line. He added 5 boards, 2 assists, and 5 TOs. Paul had a big three pointer on a save and a pass from Ray Allen to make it 80-73.
There were a number of times in the game where the Celtics displayed tremendous and unselfish passing.
Not Hack-a-Rondo – Attack-a-Rondo
Rajon Rondo has been a Celtic workhorse and the Celtics second leading scorer over the last nine games at 17.4 points, while averaging 41.2 minutes. Rajon scored 16 points, dished 12 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds, logging 42:19 in this one.
Without anyone remotely close to Rajon’s skill at distributing the ball when he sits, the Celtics are a different team with Rondo off the floor. With Garnett out, Rivers relied on Rondo even more than usual. The Clippers tried going at Rondo in the first quarter with the bigger and stronger Davis posting Rondo in hopes of drawing a couple of fouls that would send Rondo to the bench.
Rondo ended the quarter with no fouls while Baron Davis went 2-5 and 7 points. Paul Pierce got the Celtics started with 8 first quarter points. Both teams turned the ball over and shot poorly to begin the game with the score just 19-17 Clippers and both team shooting under 40% as the quarter ended.
Celtics Start Out Defensive
The Celtics set a strong defensive tone with Kendrick Perkins and Garnett patrolling the paint. They held the Clips to 32 points in the paint, while scoring 42 of their own. The Clippers are the second best shot blocking team in the league (6.2) but got only two this game.
Perkins Out Plays Kaman in Rematch
Perkins made sure Chris Kaman didn’t have another game like last time when he scored 27 points on him and grabbed 12 boards. This time he held Kaman to 10 points on 5 of 19 shooting with 9 boards. Kendrick was a bear on the boards himself with 15 in this contest, while blocking 2 shots and scoring 9 points.
Clippers Break Away, then Celts Run Back
The Clippers broke open a tight game with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter against Boston’s second unit. Bill Walker got some early playing time, but fouled Rasual Butler on a three point attempt. Baron Davis made a jump shot while Mardy Collins made a driving dunk to go up 26-17 in the first 2 minutes of the quarter.
6’ 6” Mardy Collins was in opposite 6’ 0” Eddie House and the Clippers held a 7-9 point lead until about the 4 minute mark of the second quarter.
Behind Rondo, Cs Kick It to Finish Strong
With the score 38-29, the Celtics went on a 14-4 run to go ahead. They finished the second quarter on a Rondo flurry, as he stole the ball twice and finished once with a driving left handed lay up that started way down at his hip, to take the lead at 43-42. Kaman closed the half with a jumper, to temporarily retake the lead, 44-43. Rondo hit what would have been a three point shot right after the buzzer sounded to end the half.
Ray Allen hit his two three pointers and Ray and Paul were the leading scorers at the half with ten each.
Strong Third Quarter
Unlike their pattern with KG out, the Celtics came out strong in the third quarter, scoring 6 straight points on an 8-2 run, to go up 51-46. The Celtics outscored the Clippers 21 to 15 with Rondo getting three lay ups including a classic ‘give and go’ with Baron Davis guarding him on the right side. KG took the pass and picked Davis off after he gave it back to Rondo for an easy two.
“Did That Just Happen?”
Ray Allen did a 360 degree spin move as he went to the hoop for a lay up early in the third to put Boston up 47-44. Kevin Garnett up faked Camby out of the gym and drew the foul on a dunk as Camby tried to recover to make the score 53-48.
Rondo Growing Stronger Every Game
Rondo continues to grow his game and his impact on the court as he outplayed the wily vet Baron Davis. Rondo’s effectiveness in running a team and his own scoring ability just solidifies more each game. His chemistry with Kevin Garnett on fast breaks is outstanding and he works to look inside for a cutting Tony Allen and Kendrick Perkins on a regular basis.
Rajon still favors driving and kicking it out to Ray and Paul for the three pointers or drawing the defense to free them up to operate as they see fit. Occasionally, Rondo passes up a lay up he should just take, as his pass ends up as a turnover or a more difficult shot for someone else. Mostly, he is right on with his decision making.
Rajon missed two foul shots, but hit two clutch ones the Celtics needed at the end, when the Clips were trying to close the gap and finished 4 for 6 at the line. Rondo was 6 of 8 from the field with what is getting to be a normal assortment of difficult lay ups that he seems to make on a regular basis.
He and Perkins shut down Baron Davis and Chris Kaman, after both players had big games the last time the two teams met.
From Jimmy Toscano of Celticsblog…
“Perkins and I were laughing before, for some reason our two guys got off last game, and we knew that we had to step up and take the challenge,” Rondo said. “At the end of the day we had to man up and try and get stops. Perk and I were talking and we pride ourselves on defense.”
Garnett Getting There
Kevin Garnett looked good and fluid on the court. There were no signs of lingering effects from his hyperextended knee. He played 30 plus minutes, shooting 7 of 12 for 17 points in support of Pierce. Garnett only grabbed 2 rebounds and had 2 assists, as the Clippers out rebounded the Celtics 48-43. But the Cs were virtually even with the Clippers in rebounding after the first quarter.
And the Celtics did not let the long frontline of the Clippers get anything easy. Camby (1 for 7) and Kaman combined to shoot 6 for 26. That is due to Garnett being back. He just competes on every play. His intensity is crazy. I don’t know of another player today like him. Together, Perkins and he are a force.
The Celtics had 10 thefts total and are second in the league in steals (8.8), led by league leader Rondo, who added 4 more last night, while Ray Allen added 3, and Tony Allen had 2 more.
Bench Falters, Recovers
After that early second quarter let down, the Celtics bench players held their own the rest of the way. After being unable to generate a cohesive, purposeful offense initially, Doc called a time out and ran a play to free Eddie House for a jump shot. That got the unit going better.
Rasheed Wallace played tight defense on Kaman and Camby and he hit a three pointer to open the 4th quarter. Wallace had just 5 points and 4 rebounds in 17 plus minutes.
Glen Davis continues to find it difficult to rebound, finishing with 2 and 2 points in 15 minutes. His defense was excellent.
Ray Allen finished with 15 points on 5 of 14, but just 2 of 7 from the three point line. Ray added 6 rebounds, 4 assists, to go with his three steals in 39 plus minutes.
Tony Allen had 5 points, 2 rebounds, an assist, to go with his two steals in just 10 plus minutes.
The Clippers have given the Celtics trouble. They are becoming a better team and this win shouldn’t be taken lightly in light of the Celtics recent troubles. But bigger fish are just around the corner.
Three Davis’ in this game
Besides Baron and Glen, Ricky Davis played and scored12 points off the bench. Craig Smith had 13 points and ten straight for the Clippers at one point.
Big Week Ahead
That the Celtics don’t play very well without Garnett is disappointing. That they look so good so soon with him is heartening.
They have a number of big games coming up with the Magic and the Hawks away, before returning home for their biggest game of the season against the Lakers on Sunday at 3:30 on national TV.